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lyth

Lyth Avenue on the left, Harwood Place on the right.

Today we are going to talk about two streets on the East Side. Lyth Avenue runs between Purdy Street and Jefferson Avenue in the Cold Spring neighborhood of Buffalo. Harwood Place runs a short distance off, across Jefferson Avenue, near Lyth Ave. Harwood Place is a dead-end street, though historically, it ran through to Lonsdale Road at times. The road was initially a driveway leading to the stables of the Lyth homes at Northland and Jefferson. The horses for the Lyth Tile Company were housed there. The street was deeded to the city around 1886. The family also built two houses and a place of business on the street.

john lyth 3John Lyth was born in Stockton-Upon-Tees in England in September 1820. Mary Ann Harwood Lyth was born in England in 1817. At age 13, Mr. Lyth learned the trade of earthenware manufacturer. John and Mary Ann were married in 1843. They had three children while living in England – Alfred, John, and Mary. They emigrated to Buffalo in 1850 and had two more children – William and Francis- born here in Buffalo.
In Buffalo, John Lyth worked for P.A. Balcom, a local brickmaker. He later worked with W. H. Glenny in the crockery business. In 1851, Mr. Lyth’s brother, Francis, invented and introduced the hollow tile arch in York, England. In 1857, Mr. Lyth purchased a plot of land nearly a half-mile square and began to manufacture farm drain-tile. In his first year, he only sold $50 worth of tile. Then, in 1864, he went into business with Mr. Balcom, a partnership that lasted for ten years. They manufactured salt-glazed, citrified sewer pipe and terra cotta goods. Their factory was located at 83 -163 Puffer Street (now Northland Avenue), between Purdy and Jefferson. Lyth Avenue was a driveway to the factory.

lyth works

Lyth Factory. Source: Buffaloah.com

The Lyth family were pioneer residents in the Northland section of the city. Northland Avenue at the time was known as Puffer Street. John Lyth chose the location for the factory because of the abundance of clay in the soil. This clay was the best type for making tiles. The Lyth factory was a landmark of the early neighborhood.

The Lyth home was located at 169 Puffer Street. The house was considered suburban when it was built. In later years, family members would say that they were so far out of town they couldn’t even get a doctor to come, except in gravest illnesses. The large house was surrounded by extensive lawns, gardens, and orchards. The family had a cow, chickens, and vegetable gardens to provide for the family. Mary Ann was devoted to her family. Twice, she refused to return to England on trips b/c she did not want to leave her children.

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire happened. The demand in construction for fireproof hollow tile and bricks for construction leapt after the fire. In the 80s and 90s, the Lyth Tile Company was the largest of its kind in the country.

lyth grave

Lyth Family Plot in Forest Lawn

The Lyth Family were members of the Unitarian Church. They were strong advocates of temperance. John Lyth was a member of the Royal Templars of Temperance, serving as Supreme Treasurer of the Order. John Lyth died at his home at 169 Puffer Street in 1889. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Alfred Lyth was born in 1844. One of his earliest memories was traveling from New York to Buffalo along the Erie Canal when the family arrived here. In 1862, Alfred enlisted in the 100th Regiment, New York Volunteers. He served at Fort Sumter, Gloucester Point, the James River Expedition, and Drury’s Bluff. During his time in the regiment, he suffered from typhoid fever and was wounded in action three times. He was also captured by Confederates and held as a prisoner at Andersonville Prison for a year.  After the war, Alfred joined his father’s tile business with his brothers John and William. They formed the firm J. Lyth & Sons.

183 Northland Spree

183 Northland.  Source  Buffalo Spree.  

In 1872, the Lyth Mansion at 183 Puffer (now Northland) was built by Alfred Lyth. This house is sometimes listed as being lived in by John Lyth; however, city directory records show that John and Mary Ann lived at 169 Puffer. Son Albert and his wife Kate lived at 183 Puffer.

After his father’s death, Alfred headed the business. He also joined Company F of the 74th Regiment, National Guard, and attained the rank of Major. When the Grand Army of the Republic formed, Major Lyth became a prominent member. For 25 years, he attended every state and national GAR convention as a delegate. In 1897, when the GAR National Encampment was held in Buffalo, Major Lyth was Vice-Commander-In-Chief of the convention.

lyth tile angola

Postcard view of the Tile Works in Angola

In 1872, Major Lyth was Supervisor of the Seventh Ward, and in 1873, he was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. In 1874, Lyth Avenue was opened and named in Major Lyth’s honor.  In the 1890s, the Lyth Tile Company plant moved to Angola, New York. By 1894, the former factory site was developed for residential purposes.

In 1897, residents of Puffer Street asked for the name to be changed to Northland Avenue. The residents felt that people were getting confused between Puffer Street and Tupper Street, and their mail was getting sent to Tupper Street. Picture the old-timey cursive handwritten envelopes, and it’s easy to imagine the confusion! The name change was granted by Common Council in May 1897 and signed by Mayor Jewett on May 23, 1897.

Alfred’s brother William Lyth inherited the house at 169 Northland after Mr. Lyth’s death. In her later years, mother Mary Ann lived with Alfred at 183 Northland. Sometime between 1916 and 1950, the house at 169 Northland was replaced with a retail store.

Major Alfred Lyth died in 1925 at age 81. Major Lyth’s son, Alfred Lyon Lyth, took over the business. Alfred Lyon had been involved in the industry from a young age. His father had insisted on teaching him all aspects of the company before he retired. Alfred Lyon had been known as the “champion quarterback of Western New York and was offered a scholarship to Syracuse University to play football. Times were hard, so his father convinced him to stay in Buffalo for one year to help with the business before entering college. Alfred Lyon became interested in the work and didn’t leave for college.

In 1922, Alfred Lyon Lyth opened Lyth Chevrolet at 1159 Jefferson Avenue, the first Chevrolet agency in Buffalo. He sold J. Lyth & Sons to Globe Plaster Company three years later. Alfred Lyon Lyth was elected as Erie County Supervisor for the 13th Ward in 1908, 1913 and 1927.

royster northland ave

Royster Family in front of 183 Northland Avenue, 1973.

Lyth Family members continued living at 183 Northland until the 1950s. From 1956 to 1958, Luke Easter lived in the house. Luke Easter was the first African American to play for the Buffalo Bisons in modern times. As a result, the house is often called “the Luke Easter House.” After Mr. Easter, the house was owned by Clifford Royster, who owned the house until 2002.  The house is within the Hamlin Park Historic District, established in the late 1990s.

Next time you drive by Lyth Ave or Harwood Place, think about the Lyth Family and remember a time when Northland was known as Puffer Street!  Want to learn about other streets? Check out the Street Index. Don’t forget to subscribe to the page to be notified when new posts are made. You can do so by entering your email address in the box on the upper right-hand side of the home page. You can also follow the blog on facebook. If you enjoy the blog, please be sure to share it with your friends.

PS.  I hope you are all having a lovely holiday season and have a very Happy New Year!

Sources:

  • Smith, H. Katherine.  “Harwood Place Memorial to Wife of Area Pioneer.” Buffalo Courier-Express.  December 21, 1941, p7.
  • “Mr. John Lyth”.  Buffalo Commercial.  April 28, 1889, p3.
  • “It is now Northland Avenue.”  Buffalo Courier.  May 23, 1897, p6.
  • “J. Lyh & Sons of Buffalo Coming Here.”  Evans Journal.  September 26, 1957, p4.
  • The Clay Worker, Volume 27-28.  National Brick Manufacturer’s Association of the United States of America:  T.A. Randall & Company, 1897.
  • Nyhuis, Philip.  “Finding Happiness in Hamlin Park.”  Buffalo Spree.  May 15, 2019.
  • Brady, Karen. “Bus Tour of City’s East Side Provides a Trip into the Past”. Buffalo News. August 17, 1992.
  • “Alfred Lyth Will Bequests Total $22,900.”  Buffalo Courier-Express.  May 15, 1953, p19.
  • Smith, Katherine.  Lyth Avenue Honors Family Which Headed First US Tile Plant”.  Buffalo Courier-Express.  September 24, 1939, pL2.

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